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Dunedin police sting: Police find $115k in cash, $60k of cannabis

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sat, 6 May 2023, 8:52pm
Defendants Jacob Jones, Ayden Watt and Sarah Jones were the target of a 10-month police drug-dealing operation. Photo / Rob Kidd
Defendants Jacob Jones, Ayden Watt and Sarah Jones were the target of a 10-month police drug-dealing operation. Photo / Rob Kidd

Dunedin police sting: Police find $115k in cash, $60k of cannabis

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sat, 6 May 2023, 8:52pm

Ayden Watt admitted it; he got greedy.

A police sting on the 28-year-old’s Brighton home on April 13, 2021, made it clear just how greedy he was.

In the culmination of a 10-month police operation, which included undercover officers buying cannabis five times, they found more than $115,000 in cash and a haul of the class-C drug worth $60,000.

Watt, who Judge Michael Turner said was the corporate equivalent of the owner of the enterprise, appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, where he was jailed for three years and one month.

The “chief executive officer”, his on-off partner Sarah Jones (39), was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention, while her brother Jacob Jones (34), the delivery man, got 10 months’ home detention.

In May 2020, police became aware of large quantities of cannabis being sold in Dunedin and South Otago.

With contacts throughout the South Island, Watt sourced the drug through a network of suppliers, the court heard.

When he moved in with Sarah Jones a couple of months later, police began closing in.

The trio had a simple chain of command: Watt would package the product and his then-partner would weigh it before passing it on to her brother for distribution.

He used social media, primarily Snapchat, to organise sales, meeting buyers at his home or at prominent locations and carparks around the city, court documents said.

Jacob Jones would message his co-defendants on completion of a deal: “done”.

Evidently, business was booming.

Occasionally, Sarah Jones had to meet her brother around town to restock him when demand was high.

Undercover police first met Jacob Jones in September 2020 and bought a $50 bag.

They met him on three consecutive days, eventually buying an ounce of cannabis for $450.

Over the next two months, covert officers met the defendant several more times, discussing the supply of larger amounts.

But it was five months before police swooped on the Brighton home.

In a “tactics case” they found $78,720 in $10,000 bundles and there were smaller amounts in various rooms of the house.

Critically, they also discovered receipts from cash sales — for restaurants, building supplies, vehicle servicing, lawyers and contractors — totalling $104,000.

There were smaller quantities of cannabis around the property but it was in Watt’s vehicle that they hit the jackpot.

Officers found 3.6kg of the drug, packaged up and ready for sale.

When faced with the overwhelming evidence against them, all three folded and confessed to their involvement.

The court heard Watt, who had similar drug-dealing convictions from 2019 and 2014, had grown up in a dysfunctional household and had been exposed to cannabis and domestic violence from an early age.

Sarah Jones said she had acted as a “mother hen, to keep her brother safe to ensure he did not associate with the wrong sort of people”.

But Judge Turner said she had “intimate knowledge” of the operation.

 “She was part of a small team and played an important role,” he said.

Her counsel Steve Turner stressed his client had no previous convictions and was otherwise a productive member of society: parenting, working, caring for an ailing parent, studying and volunteering.

The judge accepted Jacob Jones was motivated by his addiction and was the lowest in the group’s hierarchy, nevertheless playing a “pivotal role”.

Police said they had restrained assets worth about $3.2 million and the court heard yesterday that forfeiture was the subject of an ongoing High Court civil proceeding.

- Rob Kidd, ODT

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